Getting to the Core of Cross-Function Collaboration
Global crises like the current pandemic are so complex that they can only be tackled
when teams across disciplinary and organizational boundaries work together. Break
down silos at all costs. Doctors working with government leaders, nurses working
with supply-chain managers, infectious-disease experts working with CEOs of just
about every industry.
For their part, global businesses at the front line of the crisis have been able to
collaborate well outside their organization, harnessing their ideas, people, and
resources for the greater good of humanity. But what about inside the organization?
Are business functions collaborating with one another to address the most complex
issues facing the company, irrespective of COVID-19, such as new competitive threats
and digital transformation? Are they leveraging key technologies like cloud, data
analytics, and data sharing to drive value?
Accenture’s Industry X.0 Research study shows that many established companies still
struggle with cross-function collaboration. In a survey of more than 1,500 global
senior and C-level executives of industrial companies conducted prior to the
COVID-19 pandemic, 75 percent say different business functions (e.g., R&D,
engineering, production, marketing, operations, and sales) are competing against
each other instead of collaborating on digitization efforts.
The silos problem continues to rear its head—but this time amid companies’ digital
transformations. And it’s impacting both the bottom line and topline. Consider these
findings from our study.
Cross-function competition is causing redundant investments in digital
projects—with executives expecting a 6.3 percent increase in costs as a result.
Reported numbers for the same 2017-to-2019 period were close—with actual costs
growing by nearly 6 percent during the same period.
Digital investments made by functional leaders were expected to help grow
company revenue by 11.3 percent each year from 2017 to 2019. The actual reported
numbers for this period? Just above 6 percent revenue growth a year on
average—almost half of what was expected.
Two of three (64 percent) companies aren’t seeing digital investments boosting
their revenue growth at all.
Even in “normal” times, the lack of cross-function collaboration costs organizations
ROI and revenue growth. In the time of economic downturn, cross-function
competition—especially on matters concerning digital transformation—could be
So, for executives, the question becomes: how do you walk the line? How do you allow
for enough experimentation, fragmentation, and cross-function competition to reap
the benefits of iterative innovation and experimentation? And how do you reign it
all back in and ensure the right amount of alignment, collaboration, and
harmonization? When and where do you step in, course-correct, and realign?